the shape of leadership

Changing Lives by Meeting Needs

A Q&A With Paul Palmer

Chris Colvin on June 5, 2019

Paul Palmer is executive director of the Atlanta Dream Center in Georgia and an Assemblies of God U.S. Missions missionary.

INFLUENCE: You founded the Atlanta Dream Center at the same time you planted a church there. How did you manage that?
We planted the church in August 2003. The next day, we started a school of ministry. We had been hosting Metro Kids Ministry for three weeks by that point. So within a month’s time, we had all these things up and running.

Our situation may be very different than others. My wife and I have 11 children, and most of them had experience at the LA Dream Center. We had a lot of hands and feet to accomplish the task.

I don’t know if I would recommend anyone else do it that way. For us, because of our kids, it made it doable without too much stress.

“Meeting needs in the neighborhood has attracted conversation and curiosity.”
— Paul Palmer

Why Atlanta?
Our second grandson was born in Atlanta. We came to visit and drove around downtown. We saw the disarray in some of the communities, and my wife, out of the blue, said we needed to come start a Dream Center.

Today, the Atlanta Dream Center reaches the world around us in many ways. One way is Metro Kids, which combines Sidewalk Sunday School with afterschool programs and mentoring to keep kids out of gangs, drugs and other things before their impressionable years. Our I Am ministry to the homeless has multiple ways to help by giving a hand up instead of just a hand out.

How are you changing lives by meeting needs?
We started with an adopt-a-block program, just mowing lawns and cleaning up vacant lots so kids could have places to play.

We serve over 900 preschoolers in afterschool and busing ministries. And our Out of Darkness ministry, where we help women escape from sexual trafficking, has seen over 1,400 rescues in seven years, with a nearly 50 percent residual rate. According to the FBI, the rate for other charities is only 11 percent. That’s the power of our holistic spiritual approach.

How have people responded to your presence in the community?
When we see a need, we act. Meeting needs in the neighborhood has attracted conversation and curiosity. People ask, “Why are you here? Why are you doing this? Where’s your church?” We didn’t use fliers; we just became known by what we did. It is a great way to evangelize and multiply.

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 edition of Influence magazine.

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